Maguire won’t be daunted by hotly-tipped Belgian wonderkid
At the age of just 17 years and 43 days, Belgian wonderkid Luca Brecel will become the youngest player to ever appear at a World Snooker Championship on Sunday, beating the previous record set by one Stephen Hendry back in 1986.
But, while big things are expected of the precocious talent some have already compared to Alex Higgins, he’s likely to be given something of a lesson coming up against the experienced and in-form Scotsman Stephen Maguire in the first round on Sunday.
Maguire has long been tipped as a potential World Champion but has never made it further than a semi-final loss to eventual champion John Higgins in 2006.
This season, however, has seen something of a surge in form, winning his first ranking event in almost four years in Germany three month ago and also making two finals including a thrilling 10-9 loss to Peter Ebdon in the China Open.
It’s why the Scotsman, ranked world number seven, is a clear 1/5 favourite to remain undaunted by the raw talent of Brecel (7/2 to win) and make it into the second round.
Elsewhere on Sunday, world number five Shaun Murphy is another who won’t be expecting too much in the way of first-round obstacles in the shape of 4/1 outsider Jamie Jones.
Murphy, who won the title in 2005 and came runner-up in 2009, will be ironically something of a role model for the likes of Brecel and Jones, as his 2005 victory came as a qualifier and 150/1 outsider.
But while Murphy is 1/6 favourite to progress given that he ranks 31 places above his opponent, it should be noted that his 62% win ratio this season is only marginally better than Jones’ 60%, meaning that at 4/1 the Welshman might be fancied as one of the first round’s potential giantkillers.